I'm looking in translating this text (in classical Latin rather than contemporary):

Hope for the best
Prepare for the worst
Expect the unexpected

(or alternatively "Plan for the worst")

Depending on the sources I find different options, the mostly found being:

Spes optima
Para pessimus
Inopinatum expectes

Is this translation correct?

Thanks! :)

  • 1
    "Spes" means "hope" but as the noun, not the verb, and all of the other words seem to be inflected more or less at random.
    – Cairnarvon
    Nov 24, 2020 at 19:10
  • @Cairnarvon Can you write that as an answer? It answers the question, and an answer shouldn't be given in the comments even if simple and short.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Nov 25, 2020 at 6:27

2 Answers 2


What you have here are the "right" words, as in words picked correctly from a dictionary, but the grammar and meaning are all garbled. A translation into English would be "Hope is best. Prepare! [He's] the worst. You shall expect [an] unexpected [thing]." That's presumably not what you want.

A better translation would be optima spera, ad pessima praepara, inopinata exspectahope for the best [things], prepare for the worst [things], expect the inexpected [things], with the word order chosen so as to emphasize what it is you hope/prepare for/expect.


For the record, I did pay a professionnal translator, and here is his feedback:

Sperare optima
Parare pessima
Ex(s)pectare subita 


Spera optima
Para pessima
Ex(s)pecta subita

In mottoes it’s far more common to use an infinitive, ‘to hope for the best’, ‘to expect etc’, instead of saying it as an order. To me it makes more sense to say it as an order on a tattoo. I think it’s more personal. The first uses the infinitive, the second the imperative. The ‘s’ in exspecta can be left out if you prefer the look. It is possible to preserve the word play for ‘expect the unexpected. This would be mean changing subita to inex(s)pectata, although it makes the phrase quite a bit longer than the other two. To make the third line more similar in length to the other two (which I try to aim for with tattoos) you can simply have spectare or specta, with ex- understood. This is a poetic licence, but perfectly acceptable.

Edit: I eventualy went with the following form:

Sperare optima
Parare pessima
Expectare inexpectata

For the record, it was for a tattoo:

enter image description here

  • 3
    I would disagree with the translator. The "mottoes" aren't feel good imperatives, but moral imperatives. It's advice, not desire. The imperative is the right choice. See e.g. "tolle lege" and "si vis pacem para bellum.*
    – cmw
    May 14, 2021 at 22:08

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